Once upon a time, bookstores were filled with books – and people who bought them. Now, bookstores like Borders are filing for bankruptcy as more consumers purchase e-books, using devices like Barnes and Noble’s Nook and Amazon.com’s Kindle. Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble now also make apps for the iPhone and Android to turn mobile devices into a Nook or Kindle ebook reader.
The Nook app, free from the iTunes app store or in the Android Market, provides access to over 2 million titles. Books download quickly to your Nook account and are synced across all devices using Nook. The Nook app settings allow users to control the font, font size, spacing, and justification of text of each book’s page. You can also change the color of the text, the background color of the page, and the color of highlights and links – a feature great for users with visual disabilities. The Nook also allows users to adjust margins, rotation settings, and brightness right within the app, as well as save all of these settings as a theme so that you can apply unique settings to different books. One of my favorite features of the Nook is the ability to enter notes throughout the text by holding your finger on the screen and dragging it across the text. Once the text is selected, you can choose to highlight the text, or add a note.
Amazon Kindle is the biggest competitor to Nook and offers over 810,000 titles. The Kindle is available as an app for iOS, Android, as well as via Kindle for PC. Like Nook, the Kindle app syncs across all platforms you use, so any book downloaded and archived can be retrieved on all devices synced to your Kindle account. The Kindle for iPhone app features choices for 5 font sizes with three color themes, including black on white, white on black, and sepia. The Kindle for iPhone app allows users to access the cover of the book, table of contents, beginning, or specific page. Also like the Nook, users can highlight text, but the Kindle offers users the definition of selected text as a link its Google and Wikipedia entries. Like the Nook, Kindle users can also add notes to text. Unfortunately, the Kindle app does not allow you to adjust brightness on the iPhone (but it does on the iPad). Android users of the Kindle can change the display brightness if auto-brightness is not selected in the Android phone settings.
To put their ball in the e-book game, Apple has also released their own app and related eBook store, the iBook. The store currently only features a measly 150,000 titles compared to the Nook’s 2 million, and the app only allows users to choose between two sizes of fonts, six fonts, and either a black and white, or a sepia theme. Like the Kindle and Nook, you can search within the book, and bookmark the current page you are on. It is, however, easy to find the most popular books by viewing what’s featured on the iBookstore and the New York Times best-seller lists, or by browsing by title, author, or genre. Unfortunately, the only way to find and purchase books is via the app – you cannot currently purchase books from iTunes or the web.
Apple has a long way to go before it can catch up to either the Kindle or the Nook. And though both Kindle and Nook apps allow access to purchases between devices, the Android and iOS Nook apps offer a broader range of titles to download – including access to magazine and news subscriptions. Nook also features more control over reading settings, making the Nook app slightly more ideal for users with visual disabilities, or even for families using one device (such as an iPad) that would like to apply different themes of reading settings for each user.